The design of Charlotte Bombel is totally out of the ordinary. From her studies in biology, Charlotte brings with her curiosity and a constant affection for nature and materials. It starts from an idea, distant and abstract, but this becomes a deep dialogue with the materials and the product itself. It is impossible to limit design in the name of an object, but according to Charlotte it is a continuous discovery of ourselves, of our way of life. To sum it up, Charlotte studies how design interacts with its own ideas, realization and creation. This is very often a long complex path that has been studied several times, but which at the same time leaves us breathless. We had the pleasure to meet Charlotte, who let us into her world.
Hello Charlotte, do you remember the exact moment when you realized that design would be your way?
Hi Dare Clan Magazine, thank you for inviting me! Like any child, I had a natural curiosity about my environment. To me it didn’t matter if it was gardening with my grandfather, sewing with my mother, or fixing machinery and computers with my father... These activities have taught me in a very fun and playful way that understanding what I’m managing is the key to recognizing how to work with it. This led me to attend university to study biology and later move on to design. While I started studying biology, my boyfriend started his bachelor's degree at the Design Academy in Eindhoven. I was helping him with some projects and suddenly I realized that the assignments he received were far more interesting to me than identifying plants or learning things by heart.
You studied biology for a year before switching completely to design. Do you think there’s a meeting point between the two disciplines?
For both practicing design and biology practise, I believe curiosity is the most important character trait people should have. Without it, there is no reason to observe and do research, and therefore no innovation. Also, both disciplines are quite experimental. Studying in both fields I can say that there are some overlaps in the thought processes when dealing with a scientific or creative problem. You start from a rather vague idea, which then develops further through the synergy between new insights, which once again redefine the problem.
After graduating from the Design Academy in Eindhoven, you did an internship at the Hanne Willmann studio. What did you learn during this experience?
The Internship at Hannes studio was during my last year of study, actually. I have been curious about the German design scene since I learned everything I know now about design in the Netherlands. She taught me how a professional creative process works and how to design as part of a team. I already knew that she is a good designer even before entering the internship, but what surprised and impressed me the most, is her business sense and her ability to understand and “read” the design market.
Your works try to recreate movement, flexibility and three-dimensionality to be as natural as possible. Tell us about the CORAL 2019 project.
The starting point was a small wallet I received as a present during my visit to São Paulo in 2017. It is made of fish leather from the Amazonian Pirarucu fish. I liked the way the fish scales endlessly intertwine with each other and create a texture. Therefore I wanted to transform the rather flat fish skin pattern into a 3D object. At the moment, Coral is a visual study which I realized, and it’s mostly made of paper, which plays nicely with light and shadow. If it will be developed further in the future, I think it could also become an acoustic panel, for example.
Designers must not only imagine and invent a product, they must know the materials, their texture and question them. In the LATEX 2018 project you used the slip casting technique to play with latex. What is it?
I totally agree that when designing objects, designers must understand the material in order to be able to use it. Latex is a natural product that comes from rubber trees which is extremely flexible and has endless applications. I especially liked its wobbly quality. By developing a mold that leaves the material thicker and stiffer in specific spots, it forms a kind of skeleton to keep the flexible material in shape. I was keen on the prospect of activating an object using it. Since it becomes a vase only when filled with water and plants, it’s easy to store it if not in use. Design switches the states of objects, which change from being a passive object to an active object. Of course, a vase, in addition to containing flowers, is always a nice object on which to transmit a design principle or on which to project the research of materials.
According with your experience, what is design for you?
To me, design is how objects, systems, and behaviors reflect our way of living. Design is a way to look into the process of how we interact with an object. It is not the goal to serve an industry that needs new products to stay up to date. I would like to have a positive impact on how we shape our everyday culture. It also is quite an emotional discipline. Without a connection to what I design, there is no good reasoning for making decisions.
What is the best thing about your work, what drives you to improve in design?
I have the feeling that design has been too long involved in the idea of making the perfect new product. With “Scope”,for example, I tried to use as little as possible advanced technology, instead I fell back on natural phenomena that are accessible to everyone, everywhere. Its construction and engineering are visible and exposed, in order to give the user the opportunity to understand the object and the principle behind it. Which brings me to what I look for in other designs as well as mine: authenticity! It’s all about being honest about what an object can and can’t do without losing the ability to tell a captivating story, at the same time.
How does a great designer stay up to date?
Crucial to my personal process is talking to others, not only with design colleagues, but also asking for a reality check with people from other disciplines and also my parents or grandparents. I frequently go to exhibitions to get inspiration and build a repertoire that I can go back to while designing. Designers influence so many parts of daily life that I believe understanding human perception and behavior is important to create real value.
Is there anything impossible to design?
A complex system like nature. We are all constantly sampling natural processes anyway. Sometimes we should ask ourselves what should be reimagined or designed and what should be preserved, instead.
To know more about Charlotte's work, click here.
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